Aftab Ahmad, New Age Islam Edit Desk
September 14, 2014
Zakir Naik’s Peace TV regularly telecasts conversion of non-Muslim men and women to Islam. CDs are also available in market in which one can see non-Muslims converting to Islam amidst an audience of thousands of people. During a recently held conference by his organization, dozens of non-Muslims converted to Islam. Conversion to Islam or abandoning Islam to become apostate is the personal decision of the individuals. Conversions are a regular feature of a multi-religious society and it has been going on through ages. People leave one religion and embrace another under various conditions and situations.
Propagating and promoting the Deen among non-Muslims is a commendable job and the duty of every Muslim. The Quran also enjoins on Muslims to contribute to the promotion and propagation of the Deen in any way possible -- academically, financially, verbally etc. without the use of force, lure of money or coercion. In all the religious practices of Muslims, two things are mandatory: sincerity of purpose and purity of intention. Exhibitionism or Riya is not permissible in Islam. An apparent religious act or duty which has been performed with an eye on winning bravado or praise from the people ceases to be performed for the sole purpose of winning the pleasure of God and so ceases to be an Islamic act.
In India many Sufis came from Arab, Afghanistan, Iran and other countries to spread Islam. They carried out their duty of propagating the message of Islam for centuries. None of them had the resources and wealth Dr Zakir Naik has. They did not have the reach Dr Naik has but it was their utmost sincerity for the cause of God that helped them spread the word of God in every corner of the country. The people came to them and converted to Islam under their initiation. It was the personal decision of the individuals. Neither the neo-Muslim created a hype over it nor the Sufi publicised his ‘achievement’ because he believed that if a non-Muslim came to him and converted to Islam at his initiation, he did not deserve the credit because only God gives guidance to anyone He wills. I have heard about a Sufi to whom a non-Muslim came and said he wanted to convert to Islam. The Sufi carelessly said that if he wanted to become a Muslim, he should go to some maulvi or mosque instead of coming to him. “If I initiate your conversion, I will think that I have done it and that pride will ruin me”, he said. This was the attitude and purity of heart of the Sufis who made a much greater contribution to the spread of Islam in the subcontinent. Thousands of people would convert to Islam at their hand silently without creating hype over it. Delhi alone had been the seat of more than 22 Sufis who inspired thousands of people to convert to Islam.
Ours is a modern society with so many complexities in life. Muslims are blamed for waging love jihad, forceful conversions and declaring apostates worthy to be killed. Then there is the media that is hostile to the Muslims suppressing their good deeds and highlighting or blowing out of proportions their misdeeds and even finding conspiracies in their normal religious duties like the propagation of deen under legal limits. As compared to the conversions at the hands of the Medieval Period Sufis, the conversions in the sessions of Dr Zakir Naik are much less in number but in an age when the media is all pervasive and powerful, conversions in even small number seem as if Hindus are converting to Islam in huge number causing a feeling of insecurity among the non-Muslims. This insecurity is exploited by communal forces and they with the help of the hostile media start propaganda against Muslims blaming them for luring away their men and women. Theories like love jihad, forceful conversions and lack of safety to their women are spread and the entire Muslim community is made the target.
We can take the exaple of the Christian missionaries working in India. They have been working in the economically and educationally backward regions of India such as Odisha, Maharashtra and particularly in the north east. Most of the states of the north east are Christian majority regions. Thanks to their social work along with proselytisation, the entire north east became a Christian zone since the arrival of the British in India, that is, within the last 150 years. We have never seen a TV session of tribals converting to Christianity on-camera though the number of Christian converts is very high as compared to the converts in Zakir Naik’s TV conversion sessions. The most surprising development is the conversion of Muslims of Kashmir, a Muslim majority region, to Christianity in recent years. Have you seen a TV programme showing Muslims converting to Christianity in Kashmir?
Non-Muslims keep converting to Islam in India out of their own choice and as a result of their personal search for inner peace. When they decide to become a Muslim, they go to some mosque or organisation and complete the formalities. The number of such non-Muslims is very high as compared to the number shown on Peace TV. But the Peace TV telecasts give the impression that only Dr Zakir Naik is converting non-Muslims to Islam. The fact is that the open sessions of conversion shown on Peace TV also spread Islamophobia apart from contributing very little to the cause of Islam. Secondly, it comes under the category of numaish (exhibitionism).
Is then this exhibitionism staged to show the Saudis his work to invite more funds from them? Dr Zakir Naik claims that he is very close to the Saudi king and the Saudi family who have been spending billions of dollars to promote Salafi-Wahhabi ideology in the world. However by doing so, he is promoting Islamophobia in return for some conversions that have occurred in greater number during the Sufis of the Medieval era.
Aftab Ahmad is a columnist for New Age Islam. He has been studying the Holy Quran for some time.